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Attention Cadets: Don’t be this guy, in three easy steps.

March 6th, 2008 by skippy

My first MOS in the Army was 25M, or Multi-Media Illustrator. For those readers who are not Army, that was my Military Occupational Specialty. M-O-S is how soldiers say J-O-B. Now for some strange reason, the Army felt that the only possible use for Illustrators was in Airborne units. So all 25Ms had to go to jump school after their MOS training. So just imagine my surprise to find out that I was the only one who was going to jump out of planes. It would appear that my recruiter had lied to me.

Step one: Don’t be this guy.
Don’t lie to your soldiers to get things that you want from them. Your soldiers remember what you do, and they can talk to each other. You don’t want your troops to feel like you’d sell them out.

Nonetheless, I went off to jump school. I did promise to do so when I enlisted, and the extra money looked nice, so I kept up my end. The especially fun part was that I went during the summer. Which is when the cadets also attend jump school. This is significantly less fun than it sounds. Some of these cadets were from military academies, like West Point. They were generally pretty squared away and at least knew how to act like they were in the military. But many were ROTC cadets. Which meant that they were college students wearing a uniform. I have nothing against college students per se. But if your well-being depends on them not acting like college students, well, you might start to have some issues. The problems ranged from the comical, “Hey look…one third of the formation went the wrong way”, to the significantly less comical “Everyone is restricted to the barracks because one third of the formation went the wrong way”.

Here is one incident that stuck in my mind. At one point a bunch of us were on an assignment stacking reserve parachutes onto a storage rack. We were passing them in bucket-brigade style. One of the cadets near me said “One of these just came open, get a SGT Airborne quick”. So another private and myself ran off to grab an authority figure to report the problem to. All three of us returned to discover that all of the reserves chutes are fine. The SGT Airborne was angry. “Why did you waste my time Private?”

“That cadet told me one of the reserves came open.”
“SGT Airborne I have no idea what that Private is talking about.”

Step two: Don’t be this guy either.
My buddy and me wound up doing roughly a bazillion push ups over this. To this day I have no idea whether this was an accident or just a dumb punk kid’s idea of a funny joke. But in any case, don’t let your soldiers take the fall for your mistake. And if you do, try to have the decency to not look surprised when you discover what they did to your toothbrush.

But the worst offender is a guy who I will refer to as Cadet Snowflake. When I arrived at Ft. Benning, my luggage didn’t. Two other soldiers and one cadet where in the same fix as me. At one point after a formation, those of us that were missing our luggage were taken to see the Sergeant Major. He asked us a few questions about our luggage and which barracks we in so that he could make sure that we got it when the airline delivered it later. He made sure all of us had access to toiletries and that no one was missing any critical items. He summed up the whole thing by assuring us, “Don’t worry boys, Sergeant Major will get you squared away!”

“You’d damn well better!”

Four faces, totally incredulous, slowly turned to look at Mr. Special Snowflake.

“What. Did. You. Say. Cadet?”, asked the very senior, and should be noted, incredibly huge and scary NCO.

“I said you’d better get this taken care of. I’m going to hold you personally responsible for this.”

At this point the other soldiers and me tried to very slowly scoot ourselves away from Cadet Snowflake. We knew what was coming was going to be bad and we certainly didn’t want to get any of it on ourselves.

“I think I may have misheard you cadet.”

“I made myself clear. You’d better do what I say. I’m going to be a Lieutenant soon and then I’ll outrank you.”

For those of you who have not been in the military, I will give you this analogy. Imagine walking up to Chuck Norris. Now imagine telling him he’d better treat you nice because someday you’re going to start learning martial arts. And as soon as you train up enough to hold multiple black belts you’re going to kick his ass.

Now, a cadet mouthing off to the Sergeant Major is about a hundred times dumber than that.

Step Three: Definitely do not be this guy.
In fact, try to not even know this guy.

The lower enlisted were released and we got to hear the opening of a Grade-A ass chewing as we hurried away from ground zero. I never found out what happened to Cadet snowflake, but I strongly doubt his military career lasted for much longer. I do know that he didn’t attend jump school with us.

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47 Responses to “Attention Cadets: Don’t be this guy, in three easy steps.”

  1. L.B. Bryant Says:

    Wow… even I was sitting here with my jaw on the floor wondering how someone could possibly be that stupid and still know how to breathe.


  2. iTuneYouOut Says:

    wow, that’s just horrible, i’m to young to be in the military, and i know how damn dumb that is…


  3. Viper767 Says:

    I once had the particular pleasure to hear how my Staff Sergeant did the same to a Lieutenant who had done some other incredible stupid thing.
    The Sergeant was a very nice and reasonable family man who usually didn’t raised his voice (which could make him even scarier)


  4. Viper767 Says:

    Correction of my former post:
    It’s not Staff Sergeant but First Sergeant as I’ve just learned.
    I apologize for your inconvenience.


  5. JoAnn Says:

    I think Cadet Snowflake was bucking for a section 8 (insanity) to get out of his contract, personally…rither that r he was far to stupid to be allowed to continue.
    What is the good of having a popular blog if you can’t name names? No, not Snowflake- he obviously got what was coming to him, and probably recogized himself if he ever stumbles across this and reads it. I am talking about the cadet who let you hang over the whole parachute thing. Since he never paid for his mistreatment of you, why let him remain anonymous?

    Skippy Says: You may have noticed that I never give names of the culprits. This is for two reasons. First, I’m not doing this for revenge. I’m just telling funny stories. Secondly, this was a long time ago, and though I can still remember what the guy looks like, I don’t actually remember what his name was.


  6. PFC Wilson Says:

    My Sergeant Major looks like he tried to take on all the Vietcong at once, and won. That seems to be a common trend among them, so I try not to piss them off


  7. Raven Prometheus Says:

    You gotta love how the NCO chain is tight, and how we quietly get the job done for the officers. If Snowflake ever did get his commission, every NCO that served under him after that would have known about that particular incedent. Also, Any Sergeants Major that were in his units NCO corps would have “talked” with whatever Colonels and Generals they serve with, a lot of whom don’t like dumb ass lieutenants, either. Life was probably much MUCH worse for that LT after that. if it continued.

    And JoAnn, Skippy was right that soldiers talk to each other. That particular cadet in the parachute incident very could have gotten himself squared away after the incident, and may be a perfectly good major by now. We wouldn’t want his soldiers getting wind that he had made a dumb mistake when he was a stupid kid and using that to rationalise disrespecting or disobeying him, which could prove to be life threatening in our current “at war” state. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt and let him remain anonymous. Besides, if he didn’t reform, I’m sure whatever soldiers he has are perfectly aware of what a renob he really is.


  8. Raven Prometheus Says:

    Oops. didn’t see Skippy’s edit. Sorry!


  9. Tony Says:

    what snowflake apparently didn’t realize is that most army E-9’s get their jobs by killing and eating the heart and liver of the guy who previously held the post.


  10. Gus Says:

    I get away with saying things like that to senior NCOs all the time. Mostly because they know I’m joking, and don’t take it too far. That cadet makes me… itchy.

    Did I ever tell you about the time I told a LTC to go “copulate with himself vigorously” in the middle of the base OC when I was in Iraq? Or telling a brand new Butter Bar to run down the street so he can catch my “give a shit”?


  11. MannyLaMancha Says:

    Sorry for being a college kid, but I spent this summer at Fort Knox, KY and I remember we had a 10 hour orienteering session with a very old man wearing an E rank none of us had every seen before. To be on the safe side we were very, very quiet until on our way between waypoints we cracked open a manual saying he was a Command Sergeant Major. Holy crap.


  12. SKD Says:

    First rule of thumb = Senior NCOs outrank everyone except God and Jesus. Forget thid rule and you will be begging forgiveness of God and/or Jesus very soon.(For those belonging to faiths other than Christianity please substitute appropriate deities)


    Snyarhedir reply on January 28th, 2011 11:55 pm:

    Satan and the various angels, demons and saints are certainly not thrilled with that statement.


  13. paula Says:

    The difference between an Academy graduate (ANY of the service academies: West point/Annapolis/whatever) and an ROTC grad? The Academy grad might have a better technical education, but an ROTC grad knows one thing it’ll take the Academy grad a long tough time to learn: if some old NCO quietly says something like “sir, do you REALLY want to do that?”, it actually means “FREEZE, YOU IDIOT, BEFORE YOU KILL SOMEBODY!”


  14. SrA Says:

    I had “that guy” as a SSgT and he almost single handedly desroyed 3 careers of his troops. there should be personality screenings in the military


  15. AF Cadet Says:

    Dang how did those idiots get in college. All those cadets would be eaten alive if they came into the ROTC program in my University.


  16. JoAnn Says:

    *sigh* You are right Skippy, I shouldn’t have such a tendency for revenge- gotta work on that. My inability to handle blatant stupidity in people who were placed over me in rank has gotton me in trouble in the past. Of course, they usually also reacted like my husbands former 1st Sgt, who told him privately that he would hate to run into me in a dark alley.


  17. Dave Van Domelen Says:

    It strikes me that the numbered ranking system is a very good idea, for the simple reason that you can just ignore the E/O and assume that if the other person’s number is higher than yours, they probably know more about what they’re doing than you do and should be obeyed. Usually, anyway. ;)


  18. ross Says:

    We’re lucky here at VMI to have senior NCO’s within VMI and the attached ROTC programs that really couldn’t give an airborne intercourse abotu feeligns and emotions and demand respect. It helps us a lot to leanr hwo to work with NCOs. I OWuld never in a million years tell that to a SGM. Even if I was a 4 star. Let alone a dumbass cadet.


  19. Jon Akers Says:

    Raven: Actually, if that kid is a major now, he would probably be best suited simply telling the story to his underlings as a lesson… Yeah, he did something stupid when he was a cadet, and this is what he learned from it. If he also takes that attitude with those he has to correct when THEY do something stupid for the first time (and don’t cause any real harm except for embarrassment), those in his charge will probably respect him that much more. Being fair to your troops as an officer is one of the best ways to get them to back you on anything.

    I learned this when my CO would bring folks to Captain’s Mast. He was a fair man and punished people fairly for things that they did wrong. Because of this, he was admired by the entire crew of the ship. The CO previous to him was hated by all of the enlisted folks because he didn’t have any problem with screwing over the crew.

    Oh, and I have fond memories of getting midshipmen on board (naval version of cadets). We would play all of the pranks that we would on a newly enlisted man coming on board ship for the first time. Of course, we were nuclear engineers, so we could get away with it… heck, we would get away with telling lower ranking officers that they were screwed up, so long as we were right. Nuclear engineering folks are a slightly different breed than the rest of the enlisted folks… if we screw up, bad things happen. :)


  20. Raven Prometheus Says:

    You’re absolutely right, Jon, I see your point that he could use it as a “how not to be” example to his junior officers.

    Also, about your comment on Nuclear Engineers. I see a lot of the same things as an EOD tech. It’s like you say, if we screw up, bad things happen. I watched one Plt Sgt physically restrain a 2nd Looie PL, after we told the kid that going down range was a bad idea and he pulled the “I’ts my scene, I’m in charge, I’ll go where I want,” card. We said “Sir, that is a really bad idea. You’re going to get yourself and your driver killed.” He said he’d put us up on report, and started walking down range. His PFC driver almost followed him, but the E7 Plt Sgt grabbed the Looie and took him back to the truck, screaming about court martials all the way. That was ehrn the IED went off. At least the Looie had the decency to admit to us, offline and away from his joes, that he had been wrong, and he would learn from this and act accordingly in the future.


  21. Dwayne Says:

    I am sorry, I have so many memories of Cadets and CSMs that I find this absolutely hilarious! I think the only CSM that I wasn’t intimidated by was one I met at Bragg when I was trying to get into 1/17 LRSD; he was a old SF vet and was about the most laid back individual that I had ever seen in the military. I had this great “interview” with him, spoke to him about my interest in his unit and that I had been a scout for several years and was looking for a bigger challenge, which I guess is what he wanted to hear. Spent a little over an hour while he was making calls to try and get my medical profile suspended or find some way of getting me back on jumps status, which is when my eyes noticed one plaque on the wall with a MAC-V-SOG CCC recon team designator on it! The most laid back senior NCO that I had ever met, and probably the single most dangerous individual I personally met in the military!
    Lesson learned; an older, senior NCO that treats you like a human being has NOTHING left to prove to themselves or anyone else, listen to them and treat what they say like the Gospel!


  22. paula Says:

    So there I was, an 18-year-old Navy brat working at the PX. Had this one regular customer, a nice old guy who came to my counter most weekends, because I had all the model train stuff he liked. Well, the dude was always very pleasant; taught me a lot about those trains I was selling, too. I did know he was a Marine sgt, from having to check his ID, so I just called him ‘sarge’.

    Anyway, one fine weekday he surprised me by showing up in full dress uniform — he’d always been in civvies before — and when I was joshing with him that ‘he sure looked pretty today!’, he mentioned he was dressed up for his retirement ceremony. That would be right about when I finally noticed old Sgt. Nice-Guy had service stripes from his wrist to his shoulder, and that chest full of rows of pretty ribbons started with a pale-blue one, with tiny white stars….. yikes!


    David B reply on March 9th, 2014 11:05 pm:

    What is that ribbon?


    Tom reply on August 14th, 2017 2:54 pm:

    I suspect the Congressional Medal of Honor.


  23. Navy Brat Says:

    My dad has this one funny story he likes to tell about boot. He went into the Navy and made a career out of it after joining in 1967. Being the old salt that he is and Vietnam vet, he always goes off about the recruits who rat out their instructors for petty stuff they did to teach them the rights and wrongs that could get them and their buddies either saved and sent home in one piece, or killed and a bunch of gold stars hanging in families windows.

    Well, he said it was a couple of weeks into boot and there were these guys who started goofing off after lights out. The drill instructor finally had had enough of this bs. So, one night just before lights out he summoned 4 guys (4 of the biggest guys in his division) to his office. He then gave them midnight watch for the next week and he also gave them billy clubs as well as flash lights. He then instructed them to beat the ever living s**t out of whoever got out of their racks. Well, as you can imagine there’s always that one guy who thought he was just kidding because the CPO could possibly not be serious. Well, a couple of hours after lights out sure enough someone got up and some more followed suit. The only thing my dad could see was pitch dark, then a flashlight turn on followed by several recruits getting the holy hell beaten out of them. They were a couple of guys short for the rest of the time he was in basic. He said their screams and howls of pain were classic. No one after that dared to screw up.


  24. mn Says:

    Of course, there are times when you, as a cadet or even as a recruit, may NEED to convince a senior NCO that you DO know better. Not fun, and if you do it wrong it can turn unpleasant, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

    This usually involves specific civilian expertise that you have acquired somehow.


  25. PFC Wade Says:

    I’m a ROTC cadet now and I still snap to parade rest when the sergeant major talks to me.

    What a douche.


  26. SKD Says:

    To Navy Brat:
    That is a perfect example of OVERDOING IT! Yes there are lessons that must be learned and yes discipline is a very important factor, however, giving recruits billyclubs and telling them to “beat the ever living s**t out of whoever got out of their racks,” is well over the line of good disciplinary tactics, apparently, as evidenced by the fact that those who were out of their racks were apparently physically injured enough that they were unable to finish boot. If the CPO had punished the entire division for the transgressions of the few then things would have sorted themselves out, Firstly those who were wrongly punished would have likely turned in those who were screwing everyone else over. Secondly everyone would have learned the valuable lesson that in the military the actions of a few screw-ups are likely to badly affect the wellbeing of the entire unit in a way that is much less likely to involve the deaths of those in the unit.


  27. SKD Says:

    Correction(I was rereading my post and realized my last sentence did not correctly convey what i was trying to say, therefore a reworded correction lies below):
    Secondly everyone would have learned the valuable lesson that in the military the actions of a few screw-ups are likely to badly affect the wellbeing of the entire unit. And he would have done it in a way that would have taught them this before the screwsups managed to get someone else killed for their goofball antics on the battlefield.

    to Skippy or whoever moderates these comments: if you don’t mind I would appreciate it you could make the correction to my prior post for me and remove this one. Thank you in advance.


  28. Peter Says:

    Thanks for the story. It brought back memories of my own encounters with Sergeants-Major and Second Lieutenants. See my blog ( http://tinyurl.com/2bqgvy ) for the story.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Skippy Says: I read that and laughed my ass off. So few of my stories involve explosives. For some reason my Commanders never wanted me to have any.


  29. Fry Says:

    So now we’ve got an excellent example of what kind of person not to be. If you haven’t already done so, I’d like to see an example of the opposite end of the spectrum: could you please make an update featuring three people from your military career of whom you’d say “Be this person!”


  30. Navy Brat Says:

    SKD: no, they weren’t physically beaten up so badly that they couldn’t finish. Should’ve related this to begin with. They were rolled back into another division several days later because they were screw ups and kept doing stupid stuff after that night. A fate no one wants to suffer in the military after you’ve been through 4-6 weeks. No broken bones, no cracked skulls, just bruised and humiliated. Their CPO was a WWII vet and a very crusty man who, believe it or not, was respected, not feared.


  31. Reader of mil history Says:

    “With the Old Breed” by Eugene Sledge has a story along these lines. An old salt Marine NCO was in charge of safety at the pistol range one day. One LT calls out to another who turns to him pointing his loaded pistol in a direction not downrange. Instantly the NCO jumps up, throws a handful of gravel in the second LT’s face and chews him a new one for violating a prime rule of firearms handling: never point a loaded weapon at something that it would be bad to shoot. To his credit the LT was very apologetic about it and deferential to the salty NCO. Lesson learned emphatically with minimum of fuss.


  32. Uncle Bubba Says:

    SKD, the way I heard it put was: The Commanding General may well have personal chats with God, but he has to ask the Command Sergeant Major to get him an appointment.


    Great stories, Skip.


  33. Gunbunny Says:

    Definition of Stupid:
    Watching a 2nd LT. pull rank on the BN Sgt. Maj.
    Needless to say, I evac’d the area. After that my battery pulled every shit detail on Ft. Knox for 6 months.


  34. 91A Says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how many of the Cadets/Company Grade Officers seemed to no clearly understand what a CSM is capable of. You want the CSM as your friend. We had a Captain who pulled some stuff on on of his enlisted troops and our CSM found out about it. (Ok, I may or may not have had anything to do with that.) He went over to the Company HQ and took a big chunk out of the Captain’s backside. The Captain, not being all the bright, proceeded to the Battalion Commander’s office. He told the LTC what the CSM did and proceeded to have whatever backside he had left removed by the LTC.
    Rule#1 Do not mess with the CSM he HAS been there and done all that before you were a gleam in your parent’s eyes.
    Rule#2 Enlisted soldiers take care of their own. We do talk and we do have friends.

    Tim 91A 84-87


  35. thieving_quartermaster Says:

    haha this one time I had a captain tell me “dishonest soldiers like you are the reason I hate my job.” …Then the CSM explained to him that my “dishonesty” was the only thing keeping his motor pool running. Good times.


    Snyarhedir reply on January 29th, 2011 12:23 am:

    It took me until this comment to figure out that “CSM” stands for “Command Sergeant Major”. (But in my defense, the word “sergeant” by itself or accompanied by “staff” is always abbreviated and never initialed like an acronym.)


  36. ComCam Says:

    paula’s story reminds me of one I heard from my best friend.
    He was working the gate one Sat afternoon with another kid who was new and had the situational awareness of a rock. My friend was in the parking lot behind the guard shack giving directions to a TDY Airman when he heard a commotion from his partner. He moved to investigate. His partner was being a bit incensed with an elderly gentleman who appeared to be trying to gain access to the base. ?e was dressed decently and driving a mid-80s sedan. The ensuing conversation went something like this
    “Sgt V, this geezer is trying to get on base and doesn’t have an ID!”

    Sgt V replied to the gentleman” Sir, what’s going on? You need an ID to get on base.”

    Gentleman- “I know Sgt, but I have lost my ID and need to come on base to get another one.”

    “See Sgt V, he doesn’t have ID to come on base, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell him!”

    Sgt V- ” Sir, do you have any other form of Identification?”

    Gentleman- “Well, I got this” he said pulling another card from his wallet

    Sgt V taking card, snaps to immediate attention, renders salute, and states ” Sir, not a problem, sorry for detaining you. Do you know where Pass and ID is? We will have someone there to meet you and if you need directions, we will have someone escort you.”

    Gentleman- “Not a problem, I know where it is, sorry for the bother”

    As the Gentleman was driving away, Sgt V was on the radio, calling for several personnel in the chain of command, including Base Commander. Young partner was incredulous over all the fuss over this guy and quite confused when Sgt V informed him that he was going to beat the hell out of him for blind stupidity. he then asked Sgt V what the other card he had presented to garner such treatment.

    Sgt V’s reply was ” That “Old Geezer” presented his Medal of Honor Society Membership card. Base Commanders policy is to be informed whenever a MOH Recipient is on base so they can be afforded any assistance required. You are going to be guarding the Alert Pad for the next year I think.”


  37. Jim Says:

    Moral of ComCam’s story: If you don’t know who you’re talking to… be polite.

    As for Snowflake, well, I guess he’ll serve as an example to others. Perhaps to the effect of saying, “Thank you for your trouble, Sergeant Major,” and then waiting for a signal to depart. Really, not a difficult skill to learn.


  38. Pte B Says:


    How does someone as stupid as Cadet Snowflake survive?
    Everyone,and I mean everyone knows that Sgt Major’s deserve probably close the most respect out of any of the ranks because it takes a lot of years of experience to reach that level in your career. That incident is probably one of the most idiotic things I have ever heard of somebody doing.


  39. Spc Z Says:

    I’ve seen some terrible officers and some great ones. IMHO any 2LT from West Point with Airborne and Ranger tabs should have a warning label. That guy hasn’t had any fun since high school and probably thinks that Cadet Snowflake was justified. At least that new 2lt from bumville state knows what its like to be 18-19 with very little supervision and money to spend on beer.


  40. Cadet Snowflake at Sore Eyes Says:

    […] Whatever you do, don’t be Cadet Snowflake. […]

  41. Snyarhedir Says:

    I found out over the telephone a few years ago that because I have certain disabilities (mild ones, mind you) for which I must take prescription medication, I cannot even join the military, and yet I would probably be better qualified than some of these people.


  42. Snyarhedir Says:

    “Don’t lie to your soldiers to get things that you want from them.”

    That reminds me of a key plot point in James Cameron–Avatar.


  43. jmireles Says:

    Reminds me of something that happened last year. I’m in a medical unit, assigned to the Ambulance Platoon. Last year, the Commander made the somewhat catastrophic decision to place a Cad-idiot in charge of our Platoon. For the most part, he was pretty quite. Knew enough, we thought, to defer to our Platoon SGT. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to last. You see, he didn’t quite get the concept behind working from the top down. At the time, I was an E2 (for the second time around, long story), and the lowest ranking member of the platoon. So imagine my surprise when he comes to me wanting accountability. I’m not kidding, he made the lowest ranking person verify the locations of everyone in the Platoon. In a situation when all one had to do was look around the room we were occupying to find all but one. I should note that he by-passed to Platoon SGT and all four Squad Leaders by going to me. When one of the people wasn’t in the room, he made me go hunt them down, despite the fact that several people confirmed that said person was in a meeting with FRG. Now, we like to joke that we need to confirm each other’s confirmations. I’m also pleased to note that I did eventually get my Sham Shield back.


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